For almost 15 years, hundreds of Alexandrians have been fighting two roads proposed for the city's West End as though they were a dread disease.
Last night, they were at it again, as more than 200 West End residents filled every seat and the aisles of the City Council Chamber at City Hall to oppose proposed extensions of Bluestone Road and Clermont Avenue.
The council, as it has numerous times since 1974, deferred voting on the extensions, which are referred to as connectors, this time until next month.
A decision to go ahead with at least one of the roads is expected at that time. "A commitment to at least one connector now is essential," said Mayor James P. Moran Jr., "if we are going to expand our revenue base sufficiently to afford a quality school system and to address the federal cutbacks in housing and social services."
The $20 million extensions, which would be paid for by federal, state and local funds, would link Eisenhower Avenue and Duke Street, two heavily traveled routes, and give easier access to the developing area west of Quaker Lane.
Many officials argue the connectors are essential for continued development, attracting new jobs to the city and easing the traffic congestion caused by increasing numbers of Fairfax commuters. The opponents protest that they would dump thousands more cars onto their streets, ruining their neighborhoods.
"I don't want them," said Jean E. Swersky, who lives just off Quaker Lane. "All that traffic will come up my street," she said. "I want to keep Alexandria a small town."
Since 1972 when the roads were first drawn on to a city traffic plan, Swersky said she has, like many others, attended more than 30 meetings and made hundreds of calls to drum up opposition.
"Why do I do it?" she asked. "Because [city transportation director] Dayton Cook thinks I'll get tired or move away . . . . I won't."
Cook, whom the opponents consider the main villain pushing the connectors, insists they are the only way to provide for development that would maximize the tax base of Eisenhower Valley. "They accuse me of bringing it back till everyone is worn out," said Cook, who has often brought the matter before the council. "But it's coming. Like all unpleasant things [the City Council] keeps putting it off . . . but it's just a matter of when and where."
According to the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, the Eisenhower Valley contains 5.5 million square feet of vacant land which, if developed, could lead to $20 million to $30 million in additional tax revenue.
The Bluestone connector would run near Telegraph Road and would cost $4.8 million. Officials said it is likely to be approved in May and would take three years to build. The Clermont connector, running alongside Cameron Station, an Army installation, would cost $15 million and is less likely to be approved this year. Officials estimate it would take six to 10 years to build once approved.
Thomas W. Hicks, president of the Strawberry Hill Civic Association said his group, representing 900 families, disagrees with the projects. "For about 15 years Cook has been pushing it and for about 15 years residents have been fighting it."
In other action, the council voted to withdraw a $7,500 parking subsidy to Metro that has allowed free parking at the King Street and Braddock Road Metrorail stations. Metro officials have said that without the subsidy charges for parking will begin July 1.